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Health officials are examining what affect a reduced coronavirus vaccine supply in the UK might have in Northern Ireland.

On Wednesday, NHS England warned there could be a “significant reduction” in the number of doses available in April.

Health Minister Robin Swann said NI’s vaccine roll-out is ahead of schedule and would be able to adapt.

Mr Swann also confirmed community pharmacies will start vaccinating people later this month.

“The vaccination programme will continue in the coming weeks and more people will continue to receive first and second doses,” the Department of Health said in a statement.

“As has been the case since the programme began, the number of vaccinations carried out over time will vary due to supply.

“However, the vaccination programme in Northern Ireland is presently ahead of schedule and as ever we will be able to adapt to any changes in circumstances as they arise.”

Responding to the news, Dr Alan Stout, the chair of the British Medical Association’s GP committee in Northern Ireland, said it was “frustrating but perhaps not surprising”.

“The pace of vaccination has depended on the supply from the outset,” he said.

He added it highlighted the “importance of the plan, to date, in that we have the vast majority of those most at risk already with first dose”.

Its frustrating but perhaps not surprising.The pace of vaccination has depended on the supply from the outset.It highlights the importance of the plan to date in that we have the vast majority of those most at risk already with first dose. https://t.co/hhpOgghOoi

— Alan Stout (@AlanStout19) March 18, 2021

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

More than 300 pharmacies have already signed up to be part of the vaccination scheme.

Official launch of the rollout will begin on 30 March, but it is expected some pharmacies will start before then.

“I am delighted to confirm yet another positive development in our drive to protect the people of Northern Ireland from Covid-19,” the health minister said.

Mr Swann added: “Their contribution to getting as many people vaccinated as possible will be invaluable”.

The chief executive of Community Pharmacy NI, Gerard Greene, said. “The accessibility and reach of the community pharmacy network, with pharmacists as skilled vaccinators, means they are well equipped to take part in the vaccine programme.”

Mr Greene called their inclusion in the programme “a fantastic and welcome step forward” and said that this will not affect other pharmacy services.

“Prescriptions will still be dispensed in a safe, convenient and timely manner,” he said.